A Japanese court has given the go-ahead to restart more nuclear reactors, dismissing a request for an injunction against the return to operation of two reactors at a nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture, western Japan.
A group of some 230 residents filed a lawsuit with the Saga District Court in mid-2011 claiming questions remained regarding the safety of the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant on Kyushu island, which they believed was particularly vulnerable against earthquakes.
In its ruling Tuesday, however, the court sided with Kyushu Electric Power Co., the utility operating the plant, in deciding the reactors are safe to recommence operation. It said that measures taken to bolster the plant's resistance against earthquakes and other serious accidents had been shown to be adequate, nor did it believe there was any particular threat of radiation exposure there.
The Genkai plant lies around 100 km north of Kumamoto Prefecture, which was hit by a devastating earthquake in April 2016. The Magnitude 7.3 quake resulted in fatalities and caused extensive damage, leaving tens of thousands of residents homeless. The ground movement did not, however, trigger an automatic shutdown at the Sendai nuclear power plant, about 100 km south of Kumamoto, where two reactors were the only ones in operation in Japan at the time.
Before the March 2011 disasters in Japan's Tohoku region, north of Tokyo, Japan had 54 nuclear reactors in operation, all of which were taken offline in the aftermath of the mega-quake and tsunami, which triggered multiple meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The restart of reactors 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant, which is not expected to take place for several months yet, will bring the number of Japan's nuclear reactors in operation to six, meaning 48 remain inactive (4 of which are the melted reactors at Fukushima No. 1, which are in the process of being decommissioned, along with two other reactors unaffected by the 2011 disasters).
The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is staunchly pro-nuclear, has set out a plan to restart many more reactors in the near future, though it has still to overcome widespread distrust in nuclear power by a public still struggling to come to grips with the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which contaminated wide swathes of land, as far as Tokyo, and displaced around 150,000 residents living near the plant at the time. While many believe regaining energy security without the aid of the extensive numbers of conventional power plants should be a priority, others believe the future lies with new energies, especially as the problem at the stricken Fukushima plant is still far from over. Decommissioning of the plant is estimated to take another 40 years, while contaminated ground water problems have still to be adequately dealt with. Additionally there is the issue of what to do with the country's growing stock of spent fuel, which still has no final storage place.